Jonathan Roper says Celotex was « dishonest » in its second test of foam panels after failing the first test
Executives who sold combustible insulation for use at Grenfell Tower committed a « market fraud » by falsifying a fire test and making « misleading » claims about the matter, and a public inquiry was heard.
Celotex, a subsidiary of French building materials company Saint-Gobain, acknowledged that it had acted « completely unethical, » as Jonathan Roper, former assistant product manager admitted.
Roper worked on two fire tests for the foam panels and subsequent sales plans as the company attempted to capture a slice of the insulation foam market worth £ 10m per year.
In the Grenville fire on June 14, 2017, foam, known as the RS5000, ignited flames and released toxic gases and smoke. The foam was withdrawn from the market after nine days.
As evidence of Grenfell’s inquiry into the manufacture, testing, and sales of plastics to a large extent, Roper said the company was « dishonest » by « over-engineering » fire safety testing to achieve success.
The first test in February 2014 failed in 26 minutes, as flames engulfed the platform. But after changing some of the materials used around the insulation, including adding hidden fireproof panels, a second test passed three months later and it was used to market the foam panels as safe for tall buildings..
Roper was asked to produce slides for the sales team that did not include mention of the previous failed test or adding a magnesium oxide board for the second test. Slide was « completely misleading » and « intended to mislead », agreed to be interrogated by Richard Millett, QC, investigative attorney.
« Did you realize at the time that . . . Is this going to be a market scam? ”Millett asked.
Roper replied, « Yes I did. ». « I felt incredibly uncomfortable with that. I remember coming home that evening, living with my parents at the time, and I remember it to them. I felt incredibly uncomfortable in what I was asked to do.
When asked if he could go to the top management with his concerns, he replied that they were all in the meeting about marketing strategy.
« I followed a lot of procedures at Celotex which, if we look back in thinking, were totally unethical and I probably didn’t think about their impact at the time, » he said. “I was 22 or 23 years old, my first job, I thought this was normal practice, albeit uncomfortable.
Celotex informed the commission of inquiry that « the combustible nature of [its insulation] was, or should have been, known to construction professionals. ».
She agreed that the circumstances surrounding the testing, certification and marketing of the materials included « unacceptable behavior » by some employees and said she had « taken concerted steps to ensure that such problems do not recur. ».
The group also said it promoted the use of the RS5000 in buildings over 18 meters in height only in a « rain cladding system with specified components, » which was used when passing the fire safety test.
Celotex, Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Building Insulation, Management
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